Moving Off the Road

PIRGIM Education Fund


Thursday, August 29th, 2013                 



Eric S Mosher

Program Associate, PIRGIM

103 E Liberty, Suite 202

Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Office: 734 662 6597

Cell: 917 745 7792

[email protected]


New Report Shows Michiganders Are Driving Less


Michiganders’ Driving Is Down 6.7 Percent, Just Below National Trend



Lansing – Michiganders have cut their per-person driving miles by 6.7 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the PIRGIM Education Fund. Michiganders’ decrease in driving is just below the national average of 6.87%. Our decrease since 2007 (7.6%) is even higher.

“In Michigan, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state – but slightly less,” said Eric Mosher, Associate for the PIRGIM Education Fund. “It’s time for policy makers to wake up and realize the driving boom is over. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transit and biking—which people increasingly use to get around.” 


The report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving,” [Insert LINK] is based on the most current available government data. Among its findings:


·       This decline in driving is a national trend. Forty-five other states have reduced per-person driving since the middle of the last decade.


·       After World War II, the nation’s driving miles increased steadily almost every year, creating a “driving boom.” Driven by the growth of the suburbs, low gas prices, and increased auto ownership, the boom lasted 60 years. Now, in stark contrast, the average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led by declines among Millennials.


·       The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.


·       Michiganders drove less in 2011 than any other Midwesterners, with the exceptions of Wisconsin and Illinois.


“This comprehensive study of driving patterns certainly confirms that people around the country, for the last eight years, have reduced their dependence on cars and the miles per year driven.  There is no question our roads and bridges are long overdue for serious repair,” said Ron Lambe, Co-Chair of Friends for Transit of Kalamazoo County. “However, recent reductions in funding for public transit by the federal government and many states have not resulted in meaningful solutions to this crisis.  Rather, at a time when more and more people are utilizing public transportation for a multiple assortment of reasons, local transit authorities struggle to simply maintain current routes cand services, let alone expand the availability for people in under served areas to utilize buses or metro trains.  Now is the time for serious investment in public transit, which will result in an even greater reduction in the miles driven by autos (and resulting expense to maintain/repair) and significantly benefit the environment with reduced carbon emissions.”

“Decreased driving is just part of a larger trend. Whether you look at Detroit, Royal Oak, or Ypsilanti, you see businesses and residents moving back into traditional neighborhoods and downtowns, increased transit ridership, and more demand for biking, walking, and carsharing,” said Richard Murphy, Programs Director of the Detroit area’s Michigan Suburbs Alliance. We need to ensure our public investments and policies are working with these needs, and not fighting against them.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation’s most recent Long Range Plan continues to promise more spending on highway expansion than multimodal transportation. With only $280 million of its $3 billion budget going towards public transit, Michigan continues to prioritize highways over bike, train, and pedestrian transportation.

“Moving off the Road meticulously documents the change in driving in the US since 2004, convincingly showing that the decline in driving per capita since that time is due to factors well beyond the Great Recession,” said Jonathan Levine, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at University of Michigan.  “Transportation policy that presumes the need to accommodate ever-increasing driving is built on a flawed foundation.  The report adds urgency to calls for reform of transportation and land-use policy away from auto mobility and towards accessibility and a greater range of choice in how to live and travel.”

“Given these trends—these declines in driving seen across the country—we need to press the reset button on our transportation policy,” said Mosher. “Just because past transportation investments overwhelmingly went to highway construction, doesn’t mean that continues to be the right choice for Michigan’s future.”

Download the report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis on the National Decline in Driving.” []

Download the info graphic we created to illustrate the end of the Driving Boom. []


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PIRGIM Education Fund works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.